February 28, Woodford — Since the late 1930s, when Alex Drysdale opened the first rope tow of Prospect Mountain in Woodford, people have enjoyed its scenery and high terrain. These days, thousands come from all over the northeast to enjoy the highest elevation cross-country ski area in Vermont. The property is so beloved, that volunteers created a nonprofit organization to buy the mountain and permanently protect it for recreational use. The Prospect Mountain Association (PMA) purchased the land in the fall of 2018 and conserved the land with the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) today.
“We all love the place,” said David Newell, president of the board of PMA. “It’s a great recreational outlet. We didn’t know what was going to happen to it if we didn’t get involved. We didn’t want to take a chance; we had to find a way to make it happen for the community.”
While Prospect Mountain started as a downhill ski area with its early rope tow and T-bars, which were installed in the 1960s, its fortunes turned in the 1990s. Faced with the property going into foreclosure and all the uncertainty that would bring, two locals—Steve Whitham, the mountain manager, and his partner, Andrea Amadeo—bought the land with the intention of allowing cross-country skiing. They slowly built up the cross-country ski business and operated it successfully for several decades, holding on to it until the community was ready to take it over.
The mountain has over 30 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails, a large network of snowshoe trails, and maintained alpine touring trails. Prospect Mountain is home to Williams College Division One cross-country ski team; Bennington’s Mount Anthony Union High School cross-country ski team; Mount Greylock’s cross-country ski team; and one of the largest Bill Koch Youth Ski leagues in New England with over 100 children annually participating in the program. The old-fashioned base lodge welcomes families with its warm wood stove and friendly cafeteria. It is a place where children can be children and families always feel at home.
“Prospect is absolutely beloved to this community,” said VLT’s Donald Campbell. “For generations—including during my childhood—Prospect has been the best way for people to enjoy the outdoors in winter. Working with PMA to buy and conserve this land is the best thing we can do to ensure that Prospect Mountain will be available for outdoor recreation forever.”
In addition to an outpouring of support from community members, significant funding came from Williams College and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB).
“Williams recognized the importance of Prospect Mountain, not just as the home of our Nordic ski teams but as a valuable community resource,” said Dukes Love, Provost and Professor of Economics. “We were pleased to partner with the Prospect Mountain Association to preserve the venue and thrilled that our alumni stepped up with gifts to fund our commitment. Generations of outdoor enthusiasts will benefit from that generosity, and we know Prospect is in good hands thanks to the PMA, the staff at the mountain, and countless dedicated volunteers.”
Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the VHCB said: “The Board is pleased to support the acquisition and conservation of this remarkable recreational resource. Generations of Vermonters and visitors have grown up skiing at Prospect Mountain. Now future generations will continue to enjoy the mountain and its trails, and the economic activity generated by this community asset will strengthen the region.”
The mountain is also part of an incredible expanse of wilderness habitats, with a feeding and denning area for black bears, and is close to the largest beech tree stand in Vermont. “Prospect Mountain backs up against the massive George D. Aiken Wilderness Area,” added VLT’s Donald Campbell. “The low-impact nature of cross-country skiing fits nicely with the needs of bear, moose, bobcat, deer, and all of the other animals traveling the Green Mountains.”
Photo credit: David Middleton